Social Work and Direct Payments

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In this essay I am going to critic, evaluate and analyse direct payments and the implications they have had on social work practice. The Direct Payments Act 1996 enabled local authorities to offer cash in lieu of social services. They were introduced for adults of working age in April 2007 and extended to include older disabled people in 2000. Since April 2001 direct payments have also been available to parents of disabled children, 16 and 17 years and carers.

Direct Payments have also been extended to people with short term needs for example someone who needs help at home while recovering from an operation and for Children Act services to help disabled parents. Since April 2003 regulations came into force requiring councils to offer direct payments to all people using community care services. Direct payments may also be used to pay for education, leisure, assistance or services to help service users to be fully involved in family and community life, and to engage in work.

As we are aware the government is committed to revitalising modern public services offering range quality and choice to service users. This has been done and should continue being done by taking as a starting point at all times service users’ opinions (voice) including carers and families. By doing so social workers are able to listen to their experiences and get to know what they want from their services. In this way service users contribute to the improvement of quality of services provided and they may also feel empowered as their voice counts and is taken into consideration when it comes to making decisions.

Dame Denise Plat DBE 2004:2 states that “we have been listening from the start. And no matter what their age or background, people tell us they want social care services which offer choice, control, independence and flexibility.” Direct Payments facilitate for this as they enable people to choose and pay for their social care.

However access to and using direct payments is not always easy as they are restrictive or patronising attitudes about the capabilities of people who might use a direct payment and a reluctance to devolve power away from professionals to service users. With professionals failing to embrace direct payments as a realistic option for more service users. Social workers do however need to acknowledge the fact that direct payments do not meet the needs of all service users and therefore this should be kept in mind and not ignored as professionals try to meet management targets at work.

This in itself is worrying as social workers we are supposed to work without being judgemental and empower the service users we work with. Social workers and other professionals should get training and ensure that they do not stereotype service users and always place service users first. With such perceptions of service users it would be difficult to place welfare of service users first. Social workers and other professionals need to have an understanding of what direct payments are, how they may benefit a service user and when they are best applied. This will improve on their ability to promote direct payments to service users that would benefit from them.

Getting access to Direct payments is not always easy as service users face barriers such as lack of information and loads of paperwork. Service users have to become employers as they take on the responsibility of hiring their staff. Social workers are faced with the task of ensuring that service users using direct payments receive a good quality of care. Direct payments transfers considerable responsibility to the service user and it is therefore important that policies and procedures are in place to help people access and manage their direct payments effectively. Partnerships should also be formed between agencies and local authorities enabling them to recommend services that they are confident in.

For the local authority direct payments have enabled more service user...
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